Every once in a while, an episode of a TV series comes along that meshes all of its elements together in a special way. That is what Miss Scarlet and the Duke 2×05 does. This show has always had a distinctive point of view, and this episode highlights it beautifully. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is one of my favorite episodes of this show so far.
Even though the two lead characters share the title of this show, it can sometimes feel like more of an Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips) show. But not this time. As Victorian London’s only female private detective, Eliza certainly has an eventful life, but William (Stuart Martin) is giving her a run for her money in this episode.
The politics of Scotland Yard plagued William in the first season. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the strength of its impact on William. Besides that, the case he and Eliza are working on tests the limits of his comfort zone. A significant plot point for this season confronts William at the end of this episode, too. It leads directly into the season finale coming next week.
All that Miss Scarlet and the Duke 2×05 has to offer the viewer could fill pages. And fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t care about the ethics!”
Eliza is accompanying her friend Hattie Parker (Jessie Cave) to her accountant’s office when they find the accountant dead. That’s the beginning of Eliza and William’s newest case. The scene of the murder is staged to look like the one in a popular novel, and the author was also one of the accountant’s clients. William accepts Eliza’s assistance on this case because Eliza is a fan of the novel. The author’s publisher is also discovered murdered before the culprit is revealed. The result is well prepared for, if you’re paying attention.
More than that, it fits right in with the feminist tone of this series. It turns out that the author’s spinster sister is the actual writer of the novels he publishes. All the men involved — brother, publisher, and accountant — had convinced her to allow her brother’s name to go on the stories by promising her she would always be provided for. This turned out to be a lie. Her brother squandered all the money and they’re destitute. The look on Eliza’s face when the true writer says she was told a woman would get half the readership of a man…well, that says it all.
“It was never the right time.”
While all this is going on, William is weighing a very big decision. He has been offered a promotion to chief inspector. There’s a hitch, though: The position is in Glasgow. Eliza assumes William isn’t going to take it because he has turned down other offers that would require him to move. William is irritated at being thought of as unambitious. But his preference for his routine, shown in this episode, proves Eliza right.
Unfortunately, there is more determining this situation than just William’s feelings. The new job has only been offered because the police commissioner blames William for his son, Fitzroy (Evan McCabe), not moving up in the ranks of Scotland Yard quickly enough. He wants William gone. It’s move to Glasgow or stay in London with no job at all.
If seeing the way he treats his son wasn’t enough to make the audience hate the commissioner, this moment would do it. It is quite spectacularly unfair. Especially after the way William has tried to help Fitzroy all season long.
“That is something you should celebrate.”
Another thing that has carried on all season is the way William and Eliza have put anything romantic between them on the back burner. The viewer has never been able to deny the connection between them, though. The writers have made sure of that. And this episode will please all the shippers out there, like me.
Eliza and William have conversation after conversation about William’s offer. Conversations that prove how well they know each other, conversations that show they know how to push each other’s buttons but also how much they care about each other. It’s delicious, and it really illustrates how Eliza and William are the most important people to each other.
For that reason, the fallout of William being forced to move away from Eliza is an excellent conflict to set up for next week’s season finale. Eliza told William that the contentment he has with his life in London was something she envied and part of the reason why she respects him so much. Her reaction when she learns he has been given no choice but to leave should be interesting, to say the least. Obviously, how these events will work themselves out remains to be seen. I am confident that creator/writer Rachael New and the rest of the writing team have the bigger picture in mind. Miss Scarlet and the Duke 2×05 makes me anticipate that upcoming season finale even more.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs Sunday at 8 PM on PBS.